Lincoln, Toyota top dependability charts

Lincoln led the overall nameplate rankings in the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), released last week, while Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) claimed more segment awards than any other automaker.

Following Lincoln, completing the top five nameplate rankings, were Lexus, Jaguar, Porsche and Toyota. The five lowest-ranking nameplates, in descending order, were Chrysler, Dodge, Land Rover, Jeep and, in last place, Mini.

Among individual models, the Porsche 911 had the fewest problems in the industry, just 68 per 100 vehicles.

The study measured problems experienced during the past 12 months by original owners of three-year-old (2008 model year) vehicles. It included 202 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle. Overall dependability was ranked according to the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

Toyota Motor Corporation claimed seven segment awards – more than any other automaker – for the Lexus RX, Scion xB, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Prius, Toyota Sienna, Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra.

Ford Motor Company received four model awards for the Ford Fusion, Ford Mustang, Lincoln MKZ and Lincoln Navigator.

General Motors (Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, and Chevrolet Tahoe) and Honda Motor Company (Acura RL, Honda CR-V and Honda Fit) each received three awards.

In addition, individual model awards went to: BMW X3, Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Mercedes-Benz CLK.

(The complete nameplate rankings and a listing of the top three models in each segment can be found in the accompanying tables.)

Import-domestic difference remains

The study found that, while domestic brands have closed the gap in initial quality with import-label brands, there is still a considerable difference between the two in terms of vehicle dependability. On average, the import-label brands outperformed Detroit-three brands by 18 PP100 in 2011.

That differential is consistent with the findings of Power’s 2008 Initial Quality Study, which examined the models included in the 2011 VDS after 90 days of ownership.

Domestic-brand cars had fewer problems (135 PP100), on average, than import-brand cars (147 PP100), but trucks and crossover vehicles from import brands had considerably fewer problems than those from domestic brands.

In addition to affecting brand image and brand loyalty, long-term dependability also has a noticeable effect on dealership service and customer-service spending, according to J.D. Power and Associates. As the number of problems experienced increases, owners are increasingly likely to use non-dealer service facilities for paid service work.

In addition, as the number of problems increases, the percentage of owners who say they “definitely will” return to their dealer for service diminishes.

Among owners who indicate they have experienced no problems, 76 percent indicate they “definitely will” return to the dealer for paid service. This proportion decreases to 42 percent among owners who say they experienced six or more problems.

Overall dependability improved from 2010
In the 2011 study, overall vehicle dependability averaged 151 PP100 – the lowest problem rate since its inception in 1990. Average dependability scores were 155 in 2010 and 167 in 2009 (adjusted to reflect changes in scoring).

During the past decade, industry improvement has averaged 8 percent each year.

Power says the recent slowdown in improvement is largely attributable to increased rates of problems with electronic features in vehicles, including audio, entertainment and navigation systems and new safety features, such as tire pressure monitoring systems.

“Automakers, as a whole, have made significant improvements in reducing traditional problems, particularly with vehicle interiors, engines and transmissions, and steering and braking during the past several years,” said David Sargent, vice president of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates.

“However, as manufacturers add new features and technologies to satisfy customer demand and new legislation, they face the potential for introducing new problems.”

According to Sargent, as newer technologies become more widespread, enhancing the dependability of these features has become an important point of differentiation among automakers.

The 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 43,700 original owners of 2008 model-year vehicles in the U.S. after three years of ownership. The study was fielded between October and December 2010.

J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study

Nameplate Rankings (Problems per 100 Vehicles)
1. Lincoln (101)
2. Lexus (109)
3. Jaguar (112)
4. Porsche (114)
5. Toyota (122)
6. Acura (123)
7. Buick (125)
8. Mercedes-Benz (128)
9. Cadillac (130)
10. Hyundai (132)
11. Honda (139)
12. Ford (140)
13. Saab (146)
14. Infiniti (151)

Industry Average (151)
15. Smart (152)
16. Chevrolet (156)
17. Volvo (156)
18. Subaru (157)
19. Kia (160)
20. Audi (161)
21. BMW (164)
22. Scion (166)
23. Ram (173)
24. Mazda (181)
25. Nissan (183)
26. GMC (184)
27. Mitsubishi (186)
28. Suzuki (190)
29. Volkswagen (191)
30. Chrysler (202)
31. Dodge (206)
32. Land Rover (212)
33. Jeep (214)
34. Mini (221)

J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study

Top Models Per Segment

Sub-Compact Car:
1. Honda Fit; 2. Toyota Yaris; 3. Hyundai Accent
Compact Car:
1. Toyota Prius; 2. Hyundai Elantra Sedan; 3. Toyota Matrix
Compact Sporty Car:
1. Mazda MX-5 Miata; 2. Scion TC*
Mid-size Sporty Car:
1. Ford Mustang*
Mid-size Car:
1. Ford Fusion; 2. Buick LaCrosse; 3. Mitsubishi Galant
Large Car:
1. Buick Lucerne; 2. Ford Taurus; 3. Chevrolet Impala
Compact Premium Sporty Car:
1. Mercedes-Benz CLK Class*
Entry Premium Car:
1. Lincoln MKZ; 2. Lexus ES 350; 3. Acura TL (tie) / Acura TZX (tie)
Mid-size Premium Car:
1. Acura RL; 2. Mercedes-Benz E-Class; 3. Lexus GS
Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle:
1. Scion xB; 2. Chrysler PT Cruiser*
Compact Crossover/SUV:
1. Honda CR-V; 2. Subaru Forester; 3. Toyota RAV4
Entry Premium Crossover/SUV:
1. BMW X3*
Mid-size Crossover/SUV:
1. Toyota 4-Runner; 2. Hyundai Santa Fe; 3. Ford Edge
Large Crossover/SUV:
1. Chevrolet Tahoe; 2. GMC Yukon; 3. Toyota Sequoia
Large Pickup:
1. Toyota Tundra; 2. Ford F-150 LD; 3. Ram 1500 LD
Mid-size Pickup:
1. Toyota Tacoma; 2. Honda Ridgeline*
1. Toyota Sienna; 2. Honda Odyssey; 3. Chevrolet Uplander
Mid-size Premium Crossover/SUV:
1. Lexus RX; 2. Lexus GX 470; 3. Volvo XC70
Large Premium Crossover/SUV:
1. Lincoln Navigator; 2. Mercedes-Benz GL Class*

*No other model in this segment performs above the segment average.

About Gerry Malloy

Gerry Malloy is one of Canada's best known, award-winning automotive journalists.

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